Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shadow Davidson Botanas & Beers

A lot of people have asked me to recommend a good bar here in Juarez. Apparently I come across as a bit of a lush? You'd be surprised at how many folks end up passing through Juarez, whether it be for a visit at the US Consulate, or while heading further South. For the longest time I didn't really have any suggestions for them other than what I read about online, but I finally have a few of my own and Shadow Davidson Botanas & Beers is my favorite by far.

We happened upon this bar after a night watching a boxing match with friends at Drink Team. The match was over (pobre Canelo) but a couple of our friends were far from done. They suggested we take the party over to a bar that was within walking distance from their house in San Lorenzo. It's tucked into a small strip mall off of Rafael Perez Serna, just North of the Iglesia San Lorenzo, across the street from Wendy's. When we pulled up and I saw the motorcycles and hot rods in the parking lot, I was immediately intrigued. Even the sign on the front door had me scratching my head. Was I really in Juarez?

I immediately heard classic rock over the speakers and knew that my husband was going to love this place. He's a bigger CCR fan than I and the music rotation was right up his alley. On a later visit I realized that they were playing I Heart Radio's Big Classic Hits. Right from the bartender's cell phone.

It's a small place with a casual dress code but I'm hesitant to call it a "hole in the wall," although that's the kind of place I typically prefer. The service is too good and the bathroom too clean to put it in that category. As soon as we sat down at the bar we were brought hot popcorn with salsa Valentina and when Gordo complained that his cell phone battery was just about dead, the bartender promptly produced her own charger and offered to plug in his phone.

They have all sorts of interesting signage throughout the restaurant and some of them are hilarious. Each time we go back I feel like I notice a new piece of art. It's a mix of quirky and classic pieces that somehow manage to tie together impeccably.

They have your go-to bar foods like french fries and chicken wings, but their menu also includes some less expected options like the Apple Walnut Salad with Grilled Chicken ($70 pesos) and Brisket Quesadillas ($50 pesos). They even had a couple of vegetarian options which is a rarity at any bar. From the moment I spotted a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's to the side of their food prep table, I knew I would love the food. And I knew I should order the brisket. 

As expected, I loved the food. The Brisket Quesadillas were out of this world, bursting with meat, queso asadero and pico de gallo, made with red onion. Our friends opted for the Cowboy Nachos which were topped with brisket, frijoles, queso and jalapenos. They were delicious as well but I'm dying to go back to try their wings which they offer in Buffalo or Barbecue.

It was almost last call on my 2nd visit when I fell in love with this bar. Ray and I were out with friends and about 3 cubetas of Tecate deep when Don McLean's American Pie came on the radio. I shouted out, in English mind you, "I fucking love this song!" Without skipping a beat, the bartender quickly turned the music up.

That was it.

I contacted the bar to let them know that I wanted to blog about their establishment and absolutely loved their response. Here is a little part of it:

"Estamos creando un ambiente similar a un pub; tenemos la barrita, gente que quiere encontrar un sitio agradable donde beber, comer y charlar; calidad tanto en comida como en servicio, música selecta y buenos amigos. Aquí no tienes porqué conocer a alguien para iniciar una conversación. Encuentra lugar en la barra o en una de las mesitas del rincón, pide algo de beber, haz una pregunta interesante, ofrece una opinión razonable y te aseguramos que siempre habrá alguien dispuesto a entablar una conversación contigo. Siéntete a gusto en Shadow Davidson Botanas & Beers... somos diferentes. Ven a hacer el ridículo con nosotros... amamos vivir!!

Lunes a viernes checa nuestras promos; y en música, tenemos clásicos del rock-pop internacional 70's, 80's, 90's y principios del '00, garantizándote vivir una muy buena tarde-noche. Sábados, más rock clásico hasta agotar existencia.

Para cualquier ocasión en la que les podamos servir, ya sea que festejes algo o simplemente porque traes ganas de divertirte... Te esperamos en Plaza Acuario, área de San Lorenzo!!"

They won me over at, "Come make fools of yourself with us... We love life!" And that they do. When we asked the bartender to take a picture of us with our friends, she reached into an odd cabinet above the bar and offered us some goofy hats for our photo op. Fools indeed. Honestly, the only thing that could make me love this bar any more would be if they served beer in mason jars.

This is definitely my kind of place.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

International Banking

So my latest financial crisis is that on Monday, someone posted in a Mexpat group on Facebook about Bank of America changing their banking fees. The way it's been for as long as it's mattered to me is that if you swipe your card anywhere you would be charged a 3% fee. But, if you withdrew money from a Santander ATM there were no fees, no extra charges, and you got an up to the minute exchange rate. It was fabulous and made bill paying in Mexico a breeze, funds permitting. As of November 8th, you are now charged the 3% for ATM transactions as well.

When I heard about the change, all I could think was, "Thank God someone told me!" I never would have known if this little announcement hadn't been made. I was really irritated that B of A didn't notify their customers in some way because 3% is kind of a big deal. 3% more for rent, utilities, internet, security, groceries... Ugh, whatever. It makes me sick just thinking about it. I went about my business, was kind of pissed off, but well on my way to getting over it.

Then I woke up Wednesday morning to a text message from Bank of America, letting me know that my available balance was -$42.33. Fuck me. I am super careful with our money, and maintain my check register like a saint. People tease me about it. I'm that asshole at the grocery store, writing down the purchase that I just made. Then, I've got my phone out, using my XE app to see the exchange rate and calculating 3% of the purchase, so that whatever I subtract from my register is accurate.

I have to be anal like that because we truly do live check to check and use almost every penny. Actually, when I got that text from the bank that my account was overdrawn, I thought my balance was $.76. I immediately assumed that I had forgotten to write something down but I had trouble imagining that. I never forget! I was totally freaking out at this point because I had 3 more transactions processing, one of them being international, which meant I was headed for 3 or 4 more overdraft fees. $175 dollars out of my pocket, and I certainly do not have an extra $175 lying around.

So as I sat in line to cross into the US that morning, I began to go through each transaction and compare it to my register. Everything matched up. Until November 12th. I saw that when I withdrew our rent money from Santander, I was charged 3% for the new international ATM fee that I had heard about from other expats. #FacePalm.

I was livid. I called the bank and the gentleman told me that he would see what he could do about reversing the $35 overdraft fee but he couldn't do anything about any future fees and I would need to call back. He apologized and then he said it. "Well ma'am, all you have to do is deposit $11.00 into your account and then you wouldn't risk being hit with any additional fees." I lost it. I'm laughing as I type this but I really lost it then.

Mister, I thought I only had 76 cents in my fucking checking account, do you think I can just pull eleven fucking dollars out of my ass?!

As soon as I said it, I felt horrible and began apologizing profusely. It wasn't his fault. But shit, when you're stressed financially, sometimes it gets to you and you do or say things you wouldn't otherwise. This is what life is like for the exiled Americans, even those of us who are living on the border and earning half a normal household income. Ni modo. It is what it is, right?

The bank rep didn't really know how to respond at that point but after a long, awkward pause he said, "Let me see what I can do for you." At this point, I was crying, and it was so embarrassing. But you know, I've done countless customer service jobs over the years and I've had people get to that point with me before as well. When you're in a position where you have just enough to cover your bills, or maybe not enough to cover them, it's a constant stressor.

I hate to give money so much power, but it really does make the world go round. And no I don't think that money makes you happy but what does that notorious Someecard say? Money doesn't buy happiness but I'd sure feel better drinking a margarita outside my beach front mansion?

Money stresses people out! I felt bad for this poor guy because he had to listen to me. But, he was very nice and extremely professional. He ended up refunding the overdraft charge, and to prevent any future charges, he also refunded the $10.26 charge that started this whole mess. He didn't skip a beat or even put me on hold to speak with a supervisor.

I apologized again and let him know that I was just spread a bit thin and rambled on about keeping up with everything when you are banking in 2 countries and keeping all the fees straight. Clearly he could see our account and the position we're in and he told me that he completely understood and hoped that everything would work out for the best for us. It was quite sweet.

He certainly represents the bank well and types like him are the exact reason I have stuck with Bank of America since I was a teenager waiting tables and babysitting on the side. I know a lot of people have had issues with their mortgages and B of A but I have always had a positive experience with them.

In the end it all worked out but UGH. Fucking 3%

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Weekend in Pictures

The weekend started out great with this gorgeous cloudy sunrise on Saturday morning,

Noticed that the pop machine on the corner by my house had instructions on it!
Could. Not. Stop. Laughing.


I watched A LOT of movies. Some of which I did not understand at all...

And others that were more on my level.

Ran to the store on the way to meet up with friends and noticed these dogs.
Just chillin'.

The #AcciónPoética movement is my latest obsession. Google it!

Other than the wind, it was a perfect day to picnic in Chamizal!

Getting haggled into horseback riding...

50 pesos for 30 minutes.

The Holy Spirit. In your mouth.

Getting our grill on!


Trying to catch Gordo in his best Heisman pose as
he tossed the football around with the boys... No luck.

Hours and hours of fun this weekend with the What Would I Say App.
It is a must download people!

Hot dogs and eggs for breakfast because duh.

Hitting up every damned sample station at Sam's Club! Lunch is served.

The circus is in town! I was complaining about not having the cash to go when
Gordo told me we could sneak around the side and see all the animals...

He was right! This is a horrible picture because of the lighting but under that tent is all sorts of different animals. Even my favorite, elephants! So maybe we didn't actually "go to the circus," but I saw a monkey walk a tight rope, a zebra shit and 2 leopards scrap!


Passed by my fave piece of street art on the way home.
(I'll post close up pics on my Facebook page.)

Some tunes for the drive.

And now we're back at the house, enjoying some QT with Meeko and Lucy.

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!  <3

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chance Encounters in Juaritos

This blog has lead me to people that I wouldn't necessarily have crossed paths with otherwise. I have gotten to connect with so many incredible people on and off line. Living here in Juarez, and being so close to the US Consulate, we come across a lot of people who can relate to our situation, especially those who have to come here for their visa appointments or the likes. I have frequented immigration and expat forums online over the years but recently, this blog has allowed me to meet a lot of these people face-to-face.

This week I met the attorney and staff of the Izaguirre Law Firm. They seemed enthusiastic albeit apprehensive to head into Juarez. They came to the area from Colorado because one of their clients recently filed an asylum case based off of domestic violence charges on both sides of the border. The woman is currently being held at a detention center in El Paso and her attorney, Stephanie Izaguirre, came to El Paso on her behalf. Stephanie has been reading this blog and wanted to meet my husband and I. It was an awesome experience. I was able to meet her staff as well and hearing their stories were inspiring. Her paralegals are actually both Mexican by birth and one of them hadn't been back to Mexico since she was 7 years old.

She seemed quite frightened as we parked their car at a lot in downtown El Paso and got into my car to head across the border. Yet, at the same time, I sensed a bit of optimism under all of that fear. Although most people passing through El Paso don't dare to cross the border, Stephanie really wanted to have dinner in Juarez and get a taste of the city and the lives we live.

When we approached the Santa Fe Bridge, her paralegal blurted out that she couldn't feel her legs. She was scared shitless. I don't blame her. If you haven't been back to Mexico in a couple decades, Juarez isn't exactly at the top of your list of vacation destinations. I understood the fear. When you follow the US press and you hear what you hear about Juarez, it can be quite frightening.

Luckily nothing out of the ordinary took place. Whenever I am playing tour guide and showing my beloved Juaritos to people from out of town, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope nothing horrible happens to scare them off. So far I've been lucky. The worst thing that's happened was getting pulled over by Transito within 5 minutes of a fellow blogger from Reynosa getting into my car. That ended with getting my driver's license taken away but I just ordered a duplicate license, which cost me a fraction of the price of the ticket in Mexico. That's 15 dollars I'll never see again.

We ended up having a really nice dinner. They'd had a bad experience eating sushi in El Paso the night before and had a hankering for some good seafood, a tall order to fill in Juarez, which is a 10 hour drive from the nearest ocean. We ended up at Playa Bichis which isn't as popular as Villa del Mar but equally delicious. Or so I hear. I am allergic to shellfish and tend to stay away from seafood entirely. While everyone devoured their shrimp, I dug into my tacos de alambre y tocino con salsa chimichurri y aguacate.

It was really fun and interesting to meet these woman and learn more about their lives in Colorado and a bit more about the ins and outs of being an immigration attorney. We commiserated over the poor immigration advice that is passed out in the media like Halloween candy and discussed our hopes for reform and a positive outcome on their recent case.

Myself and the gals from the Izaguirre Law Firm, just before dinner.

I was also able to meet a fellow member of American Families United this week. She came from Queens to Juarez for the last of her husband's Visa appointments. That was awesome because most of the AFU members I associate with are people who are affected by long-term-to-life immigration bars and aren't eligible to apply for permanent residency so it's rare that I meet members outside of the Las Cruces/El Paso/Juarez area. I've met more Immigrate2US members than AFU members over the years so this was quite a treat.

Meeting these women was refreshing and I am just super thankful that this blog and all of the forums and groups I participate in have allowed me to meet so many amazing individuals. Getting a chance to see people from all over the US who are going through similar experiences is such a privilege.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Náufragos y Inmigrantes

I am reaching with this blog in the most ridiculous way possible. I can tell even as I begin writing...

We have family traditions. Even though we are just a scrape of a family, here on the border, hundreds of miles from my family in the US, hundreds of miles from my husband's family in Mexico. We are still a family. Every Tuesday we have "Midweek Movie Night." The tradition probably came from the fact that Redbox has new releases every Tuesday. Yes, in a country where pirated movies are sold on every corner and cost less than an item from the 99 Cents Only store, we still splurge for a rental once a week.

This week I couldn't find an action movie that had Spanish subtitles and Gordo hadn't seen, so we opted to watch Cast Away on Megashare. Surely you remember it. Motherfucking Wilson. I'm still mad at Tom Hanks for not swimming after him.

Towards the end, Chuck is at his welcome home party and the guests are dispersing. He walks about the hotel room, noticing the catered seafood that has gone to waste. He grabs a lighter and flicks it on and off repeatedly, noticing the lack of effort it takes to light the flame. Everything is so easy. He falls asleep next to the bedside lamp, again turning it on and off, no doubt marveling at the concept of electricity. When he goes to Kelly's house a few scenes later and she gives him his car keys back, he fondles the key chain and recognizes his old pocket knife, quite the contrast from the ice skate blades that he utilized on the island. In the final scenes, he chugs water lazily from an Ozarka bottle, again, symbolizing the ease of the modern world. The ease of a normal life. It got me thinking.

Just as I should never compare our lives to the lives of prisoners I certainly shouldn't compare it to that of a damned cast away. But you know me. I just can't help myself. When you live the life of an undocumented immigrant's wife, you marvel at the ease of life outside your situation. You think about what life used to be like. You wonder what other couples worry about. What they go through. Their daily struggles. Why they argue. What they're sad about. Why they're so often unhappy with their lives. If they are allowed to live together in the US, what more is there? What is the source of the unhappiness?

If  immigration didn't play such a huge role in our lives, where would we be? Why would we be upset? Why would we struggle? I feel like our biggest arguments are always over money. If one of us wasn't forced to work at a maquila in Mexico for a few bucks a day, would we still have that struggle? I can't remember arguing about money when we were in Gilbert. Neither of us have much in the way of a higher education, but our two US salaries were plenty. We're pretty simple people. If we were to have that again? At this point, I can't imagine what it would be like. I suppose all I could complain about would be his incessant snoring or obsession with pawn shop television shows. Maybe his irritating laugh? His tall tales? I don't know.

It all seems so trivial.

Then again I hear my friends and family who don't have an undocumented spouse, who don't have the same hurdles to jump. I hear their relationship issues. I feel like I get it. I don't mean to discredit their problems, albeit different from my own. I just struggle with my perspective of what a "normal life" really is. I wonder if other people in my situation have this same struggle? Will those who haven't been scorned by USCIS ever understand me? I wonder how I am ever supposed to feel normal again? After all of this? Or is what I'm feeling now normal? Was I in a trance before? I don't know. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

I don't feel liked I'm trapped on a deserted island. But I wonder what life would be like for Ray and I if we are ever "rescued" from this situation? I can't wrap my head around it.